Making Mindfulness for Children a Habit
We’ve been discussing mindfulness exercises for children, especially mindfulness exercises that are fun. So by now, you understand that mindfulness for children is important. But how do you take mindfulness from a fun exercise, a novel experience, and make it a habit that your child has access to in times of stress? Today we’ll talk about taking mindfulness from “practice” to “habit,” just like Now Cow did with Bad Habit Rabbit in Kelly Caleb’s beloved children’s book.
What Does a Mindfulness Habit Look Like?
The first thing you should know about making mindfulness for children a habit is what exactly that looks like. When mindfulness becomes a habit, your child is able to call on their mindfulness tactics, such as deep breathing or noticing their feelings and surroundings, in times of stress. They are able to react calmly to stimuli that would otherwise be upsetting to them.
As an example, let’s say that your child asks you for a treat and you say no. Before they learned mindfulness, your child might have thrown themselves on the floor and kicked and screamed because they did not like hearing no and because they were determined to get the treat.
With the ability to draw on their mindfulness practices, the same child will still feel disappointed. However, they can recognize that feeling for what it is. Then they can take a few moments to focus on their breathing rather than screaming in anger.
Once they’re calm, they can tell you they feel disappointed and you can acknowledge their feelings. You could also help them be mindful by asking if they are really hungry or if they are just bored. If they are actually hungry, offer them carrot sticks or some other healthy snack to tide them over until mealtime.
How Does Mindfulness Become a Habit?
Going from the child in the first example to the child in the second example doesn’t happen overnight. We call mindfulness a “practice” because it is something that is continually worked on and rarely fully achieved, even by the highest yogis in the shacks on the highest mountains.
Instead, you start small. Start by doing the mindfulness exercises we’ve been talking about (links in the first paragraph) every day, at least once a day. Don’t just do them in a void, though. Discuss how mindfulness can be used to stay calm in difficult situations.
Role-play scenarios like the one with the treat. Talk about how hearing no makes your child feel. Prepare them for when they are disappointed, angry, frustrated, or sad. Talk about how mindfulness can help them work through these feelings so they can cope with their feelings rather than letting their feelings rule them.
The Mindfulness Habit
Practicing the mindfulness exercises every day while discussing how to use them in “real life” will provide your child with the tools they need to deal with disappointment and other strong feelings. They’ll try and fail more times than you can count.
Then one day, they’ll come to you, wide-eyed and excited, and tell you how they used mindfulness and didn’t get upset when something happened. And you’ll know it’s been worth it because you’ve given them the skills to cope with life.
To read about fun characters coping with learning and using mindfulness skills, check out Kelly Caleb’s Now Cow books for mindfulness with your child. The rhyming pattern and fun stories are enjoyable for all ages.
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